I am a mother of four: two little boys and two bigger Pit Bull-mix girls. That shocks some people. “Is that safe?“, they ask. It’s a question that my mother never encountered, raising me alongside a Golden Retriever and reflects the strong stigma, or “breedism”, that Pit Bulls face in today’s society.
It was not always that way. In the late 1800’s, Pits were popular family pets, affectionately dubbed “nanny dogs” as families would leave their children in their care because of their nature, loyalty, and stability. Famous historical figures like Helen Keller (her service dog), Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and John Steinbeck all owned them and it was even the original mascot for the University of Texas.
But today’s environment for Pits is substantially harsher. Many local governments have passed bans on owning various Pit “bully” breeds and shelters in these towns often euthanize these banned animals upon arrival (Garland, TX is one of these cities).
While I agree that Pit Bulls are an extremely powerful animal that can be forged into a dangerous weapon in the wrong hands, I can’t accept eradicating a breed simply because of the poor behavior of some humans (Michael Vick is one of these people, in my opinion).
The media also contributes to the fear surrounding Pit Bulls; biasing coverage to Pit attacks vs. attacks from other breeds. In a 2007 study by the National Canine Research Council, media coverage on four serious dog attacks was tracked and measured. The attacks were committed by four different breeds and all resulted in severe bodily damage or hospitalization. The “non-bully” breed attacks, one of which resulted in a fatality, were reported one or two times by local newspapers. In contrast to this, the Pit Bull attack was reported over 230 times in national and international newspapers, and television reporting, including CNN, MSNBC, and FOX. This severe bias has had a devastating effect on public perception of this breed since their days as the family “nanny”.
As a mother and a dog lover, I don’t accept this narrow view and believe that it all comes down to nurture: they aren’t born aggressive, people make them that way through their innate loyalty. I see common traits across my two- and four-legged children: each needs constant attention, stimulation, and love. And each can act out if not given the attention they desire as well: while my three year old might throw a tantrum, my 2 year old Pitty will chew on the fence.
My love for Pits started when I lived in New York City and fell in love with a Pit Bull who was recently rescued through a raid of a fight dog breeding den in the Bronx. Luna was 2 ½ years old and already had three litters through forced breeding. She was only let out of her cage to nurse her young and for breeding. You might think that she would be angry, aggressive and frankly, pissed off…but I had never met a more grateful, loving and truly tender soul in my many years of owning dogs. She was thankful to have someone to love her, pet her and take her on long walks.
I had my first son when Luna was 4 and she knew life would never be the same. She moved from sleeping in the bed with me to the floor and handled it with grace. She kissed her new brother every chance she got and when he started to crawl and nibble on her tail, she lovingly accepted it and learned to tuck it under her if she had enough.
We found our second little girl, Jockamo, wondering the streets of the Bishop Arts District. She was dropped off and left to die of Parvo, a very deadly canine disease. She was malnourished, dehydrated and extremely scared. She was given a 30% chance of survival and was hospitalized for three days/nights. It took her almost 6 weeks to fully recover…she lost all of her hair and about 20 lbs but I have never met a more grateful and happy hound. She loved my son immediately and came to think of Luna has her mother.
When my second son was born we brought home his tiny hat and blanket that he was wrapped in right after he was born and let the dogs sleep with them to get used to the smell of the tiny new person we were bringing home. They were both very interested in the new little person and became extremely attached to him.
One thing about Pit’s is that they are by nature, LOYAL animals. There is nothing my girls wouldn’t do for my boys. They protect, nurture and love them as if they were their own pups. They chase and play with my three year old on a daily basis. And if my son falls while running, the girls immediately kiss him to make him feel better. I feel blessed to have these wonderful animals in my home. To my children these dogs are playmates, pillows to rest on, tails and ears to chew on and patient friends.
I am not asking everyone to run out and save a Pit Bull; just to keep an open mind when it comes to these animals. They are trying to overcome a lot and find a happy, loving home for life. So if you pass one on the street please be respectful and think before looking frightened and always ask before petting. If you are interested in adopting an animal, Pit Bull or not, from a no-kill animal rescue here is a great list for you:
Low cost vet care – http://ntxpitbullalliance.org/resources/low-cost-vet-care/
Here are some Pit Bull Myths and Facts — Inform your decision before declaring your decision – http://www.1800petmeds.com/education/pit-bull-facts-and-myths.htm
I couldn’t recommend the breed more. They need homes and they need people to love them. Your children will love Pit’s and they will in turn love your children.